Update: Final Mock Draft
My mock draft focuses on areas that the Dallas Cowboys need to address in order to finally get past 8-8. Which primarily means getting the right guys in the right spots of their new 4-3 defense which struggled in 2013. As a result of deals Jerry Jones made last season (Chiefs & Bears), they do not have a 6th round pick but do have three picks in the 7th round this year.
First Round: DT- Aaron Donald- Pittsburg
In a blog back on January 8, I mentioned Donald as a prospect Dallas should consider and now he appears to be a growing consensus among the mocks. In last year’s NFL draft, Jerry Jones did not draft a DT even with Shariff Floyd available at 18 and rated as a top 5 choice on his very own draft board. It had to be a SNAFU. Why would a GM rank a guy in the top 5 on his board and then pass on him at 18?
Jerry can’t afford to ignore this position of need again this draft. They must add youth and depth to their defensive line and Aaron Donald could be an ideal fit in their 4-3 defense as a three technique. Last year Donald received just about every recognition a defensive lineman can get in college football after a highly productive season.
-led the nation in tackles for a loss with 2.2/game.
-ranked 13th in sacks
-ranked 10th in forced fumbles
-defensive player of the year ACC
Donald displays great quickness on film and backed it up with an impressive 4.68/40 at the combine. Last season, too often opposing QBs were allowed to escape pressure from the outside of the Dallas defense, by simply stepping up into the pocket and completing passes. Peyton Manning did so with great success against Dallas. Having Donald providing a pass rush in the middle of the line, prevents that from happening and makes the Cowboys secondary suddenly not appear as weak.
The double tackle VIDEO in the Duke game, is a great example of his quickness and how highly disruptive for offenses he can be. With this pick, Coach Marinelli gets the guy he needs to turn the Dallas defense around.
2nd Round: Guard Gabe Jackson – Mississippi State
Last season Dallas improved their offensive line by selecting center Travis Frederick in the first round but now their guard play could certainly use an upgrade. Last season they got by with Leary and Bernadeau at guards but really have no one backing these guys up.
Jackson is 6’3 and 336 lbs and yet is quite nimble on his feet. He has long arms that help make him an excellent pass blocker while described as a team leader and captain with good football intelligence. Jackson has been a consistent and solid performer against excellent defensive linemen in the tough SEC as a three year starter, First Team SEC player in 2013, and a Walter Camp Second team All American. The Bulldogs offense had a very successful season with Jackson at left guard.
Last season in my mock draft, I had Dallas selecting guard Larry Warford in the 2nd round but the Lions drafted him instead. Warford went on to have an outstanding rookie season and was even PFF’s offensive rookie of the year. I was right about Warford and while I won’t say Jackson is equal to Warford, he is a very good guard.
With this selection, Dallas adds the missing piece for their offensive line with a guy who can start right away at guard. The addition of Jackson would give Dallas one of the better offensive lines in the entire NFL.
3rd Round: DE Kareem Martin – UNC
Last season DeMarcus Ware proved not to be very productive in the 4-3 defense and with injuries, basically became a part time player. Also indications are that owner Jerry Jones want to restructure his contract but Ware isn’t interested in a pay cut which means, Ware may not be in Dallas next season.
UPDATE 3/11: WARE CUT
At 6-6, 272 Martin has ideal size for a 4-3 defensive end which he played at North Carolina. In fact, Martin was recruited by former UNC coach Butch Davis who coached the defensive line for Dallas during their super bowl wins of the 90s.
Last season Martin had 11 sacks and 21 tackles for loss. His strength is defending the run but he has tremendous potential to develop as a pass rusher. He needs to be coached up a bit which one would expect with a pick here. Last season Martin had flashes of outstanding play and then disappeared at times too but he played his best football down the last stretch of the season. I think Coach Marinelli is the kind of coach that can get the most out of a high ceiling talent like Martin.
With this selection, Dallas adds more youth, talent, and depth to a defensive line that desperately needs it. And now they have a true 4-3 defensive end.
4th Round: LB Christian Jones- Florida State
Still working on that Dallas defense, I have them picking up some much needed depth at LB and a guy who offers an upgrade over Bruce Carter in pass coverage. Last season, too often Carter appeared a step slow in covering backs out of the backfield such as Danny Woodhead of the Chargers. Offenses exploited this weakness so Dallas needs a guy with the speed to play the “Will” LB.
Jones is a 2nd Team All ACC player in 2012 and 2013. He played middle LB last year and played the “Will” in 2012 which is where I think he can help Dallas the most. In the 2012 season, he led the team in tackles with 95. Jones ran a 4.74 time in the 40 and his speed really shows up big on video watching the FSU national championship season. Capable of covering TEs and RBs out of the backfield and also excellent at pursuing the run sideline to sideline.
At 6′-3 and 240, he has good size to fight though blocks to get to the ball. A very athletic LB that should fit in well in their 4-3 defense and he is described as a player that loves football. Jones is an excellent special teams player in covering kicks and can help right away in that area. Versatile enough to fill in at any of the LB spots when needed.
With this pick, Dallas upgrades depth at LB which is really needed. Jones can definitely improve their coverage of RBs coming out of the back field next season when Dallas has seen enough of Carter showing up too late.
5th Round: WR Jeff Janis- Saginaw Valley State
Miles Austin may be a salary cap casualty next season so adding a WR here isn’t a bad idea. Janis played at the same school that gave us safety Jeff Heath last season. Janis has good size for a WR at 6-3 219, and outstanding speed with a 4.42 time in the 40 at the combine. That’s even faster than top rated WR Sammy Watkins. Janis was also a top performer in the 3 cone drill and he had a strong performance on the bench press.
Janis has plenty of size/strength to get off pressing corners and also enough speed to get behind coverage as a deep threat.
Janis was productive at Saginaw Valley with 1,572 yards and 14 TDs. He averaged over 18 yards per catch representing an explosive option in the passing game.
With this pick, Dallas adds a WR with impressive size and excellent speed representing good value in the 5th round.
*3 Picks in the 7th round
7th Round: DT Jay Bromley -Syracuse
Another defensive tackle? Yes, I think Coach Rod Marinelli will be very intentional about fixing up his defensive line that lacked depth last season. Bromley represents good value here as a DT capable of getting in the rotation right away.
Bromley moves very well and is a natural fit in the 4-3 defense as a three technique. He is capable of playing any position across the 4-3 front line which will be useful. A three year starter that was named All ACC Third Team after 10 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. Described as very coachable with good leadership ability and he was a team captain.
With this pick, Marinelli adds more depth to his defensive line in DT Jason Bromley who represents nice value as a 7th round pick.
7th Round: FS Jonathan Dowling -Western Kentucky
The Cowboys have young safeties Jeff Heath and JJ Wilcox that they hope will develop next season but adding another guy in the mix doesn’t hurt just in case.
Dowling transferred from Florida to Western Kentucky and he comes with some questionable character issues related to his time at Florida. While his attitude may be questionable, his athletic ability certainly isn’t. He reminds me of CB Janoris Jenkins who transferred from Florida because of issues but was drafted by the Rams in 2012. Jenkins proved to be a pretty good player.
On film, Dowling displays outstanding free safety instincts. A true ball hawk which Dallas has been looking for at the position. He has ideal size for a safety at 6-3, 190 and also has long arms (33 1/8″) which help. He is one of the fastest safeties in the draft running a 4.52/40. Dowling covers a lot of ground in a short time and knows how to play over the top in a defense like a Tampa 2 requires.
Last season he had 9 INTs (3 in Kentucky game) and 8 forced fumbles. Represents a good special teams player in kick coverage as well.
Without the attitude issues, Dowling would be drafted much earlier. He has the potential to be a difference maker and that makes him worth investing a 7th round pick on. He does come with risks but with this pick, Dallas may find the safety they have been looking for.
7th Round: QB Jeff Mathews- Cornell
Coming off back surgery, no one really knows how Romo will hold up during next season so adding a 3rd string QB makes sense here. Make no mistake, Jeff Mathews is not currently NFL ready as he does represent a project. What I like are the things that can’t be coached such as his 6-4 height and his strong NFL caliber arm. Also a team captain for 3 seasons.
He had a very productive college career that rewrote the record books setting Ivy League records with 11,284 yards and 18- 300 yard games. Mathews reminds me of QB Alex Tanney who the Browns signed off the Cowboys practice squad last season.
Mathews needs to be coached up on throwing mechanics as he holds the ball too long, and doesn’t display proper foot work consistently. But an intelligent player that should be very coachable in those areas of weakness. Accurate passer and on film, his throws down the field are impressive. Makes deep throws effortlessly.
This selection gives Dallas a guy behind Orton which may be needed next season, while providing a long term prospect that could eventually develop into a solid NFL backup QB or perhaps even more.